‘The Flash’ races to his final confrontation with Savitar, and I have to admit, the season finale has a plot twist I genuinely didn’t see coming.
I should have, though. As I think of it, this was telegraphed pretty cleverly just last week.
Iris West is dead. Just as he threatened and as Barry saw in his vision of the future, Savitar stabbed her in the back and ran off cackling with evil glee. Everyone is sad.
But wait, Iris isn’t dead! The hologram flickers and we see that, in fact, the victim is H.R. disguised by the same transmogrifier device that Barry used during his A.R.G.U.S. break-in with Leonard Snart. The real Iris is disguised as H.R. and saw the whole thing happen. She assures her dad that she’s OK.
In flashback, we watch H.R. sneak off and try to rescue Iris from Savitar and Killer Frost. When it’s clear that they won’t get away, he activates the transmogrifiers and switches identities. Killer Frost takes fake-Iris back into captivity but, conveniently, let’s fake-H.R. live and return to the lab.
Feeling guilty over his egregious screw-up in telling Savitar where Iris was hiding, H.R. sacrificed himself to save her. With his dying breaths, he tells Tracy that he loves her. She’s devastated. Barry is both sad about H.R. and relieved about Iris all at once.
During their battle, Killer Frost defeats Cisco, but Savitar stops her short of killing him. He stole the Speed Force Bazooka and needs Cisco to make some modifications to it for him. The two villains take him hostage.
Question: Why doesn’t Cisco just create a portal and teleport away? This never occurs to him the entire episode.
Feeling no grief over Iris’ death, Barry will not be compelled to create time remnants to fight Savitar, which means that a time remnant won’t turn into Savitar, and thus Savitar will never exist. Barry and the gang work out the math of this and determine that the time paradox should catch up with Savitar in a few hours. Funny how these things worked instantaneously when Eobard Thawne became a paradox, and how paradoxes have no effect at all on other time remnants. This show’s rules of time travel are frustratingly inconsistent.
Julian worries that Savitar can do a lot of damage in a few hours. He also reveals that he’s finally created a cure to eliminate Killer Frost from Caitlin.
Savitar is overcome with a flash of Barry’s memories and realizes that Iris is still alive.
Question #2: What’s stopping him from going back and killing her now? Everyone acts like the standoff on Infantino Street was Savitar’s one and only chance to kill Iris. She’s not even hiding anymore. He could zip into S.T.A.R. Labs and stab her a thousand times right in front of Barry. Does he even try? Nope.
Expecting that Barry might find a way to trick him, Savitar has a Plan B. He demands that Cisco modify the bazooka into an intra-dimensional quantum splicer, which will fragment and disperse Savitar through all of time, from the Big Bang to the end of the universe. He’ll be anywhere and everywhere all at once, forever, and no time paradox will ever stop him. Savitar will truly be a god. Cisco asks why he would go along with this plan, rather than just sit on his hands for a couple hours and wait for Savitar to vanish? He says he’s not afraid to die. Savitar threatens to kill Caitlin, and reveals that Julian has a cure now. If he complies with Savitar’s commands, Cisco can have Caitlin back and they’ll both go free.
Contemplating what he should do next, Barry decides to take Leonard Snart’s advice and be a good guy. He summons Savitar to a meeting and calls a truce, appealing to their shared memories of being Barry. He offers to bring Savitar to the lab, where the team will find a way to spare him from the time paradox. He asks Savitar to search his memories for proof that this isn’t a trick. He’s being genuine.
Seeing Savitar with Barry’s scarred face, Iris forgives him and is kind to him. The others in the team are skeptical and only go along with this plan grudgingly. Tracy, however, is too furious about H.R.’s death and refuses to help. Barry fetches Harrison Wells from Earth-2 to talk to her.
Savitar goes along with all of this for a little while, but eventually comes to the conclusion that there would never be any place for him on their team. He can’t be a good guy. He’s a villain, and would rather be a god. Savitar uses a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone to set off an explosion in the reactor core. Barry and Wally get everyone to safety, but their work is lost.
At Savitar’s lab, Gypsy teleports in from her Earth and rescues Cisco, claiming something about how they’re connected by their powers and she could tell he was in trouble. Although they get away, Cisco’s modifications to the quantum splicer are already complete.
With Killer Frost at his side, Savitar opens a time portal and tells her to stand ready, because the Speed Force doesn’t like it when anyone messes with time like he’s about to. The speedster zombie called Black Flash races out, but Killer Frost freezes and shatters him before he can get to Savitar.
Savitar tells Frost to shoot him with the splicer. She does, but it doesn’t work the way he expected. He doesn’t become a god. Instead, Jay Garrick races out of the portal and knocks him down. Barry and the team then arrive. Cisco explains that he rigged the bazooka not to become a quantum splicer like Savitar wanted, but a skeleton key that would unlock the Speed Force prison Jay was trapped in. (I’ve gotta say, Savitar was kind of a dumbass for simply taking it for granted that Cisco would do what he asked.)
As Barry and Wally chase Savitar around, Cisco offers Killer Frost the cure and tosses her the vial, telling her that it’s her decision whether she wants to take it.
Savitar attacks Cisco but Killer Frost saves him. Savitar then vows to murder Joe, Wally, Iris, and everybody else Barry loves. Barry phases and leaps into Savitar’s robot suit, knocking him out of it. He stands over Savitar with the sword arm poised threateningly.
Scared for a second, Savitar then gloats. This will be the moment Barry turns to the dark side, thus becoming Savitar. The circle has completed after all.
No, Barry won’t go dark. He vibrates and smashes the suit to pieces. He looks at Savitar pityingly and walks away. Furious, Savitar lunges at Barry, but Iris shoots him dead. (Bullets hurt speedsters all of a sudden?) After Barry spent months trying to save Iris, it turns out that she saved him. The time paradox then catches up with Savitar, whose body vanishes.
The team have a funeral for H.R. Caitlin uexpectedly shows up. She hasn’t taken the cure. She still has her powers, but says that she’s neither Killer Frost nor Caitlin anymore. She needs some time to figure out exactly who she’s going to be.
The threat of death no longer looming over them, Barry and Iris start planning their wedding again. Unfortunately, they’re interrupted by an earthquake and a massive electrical storm ravaging the city. They rush to S.T.A.R. Labs and find the building wrecked and all the equipment fried. It seems that, ever since Jay Garrick left the Speed Force prison, it became unstable and will now destroy the city (if not the whole world) unless someone takes Jay’s place.
After a moment of saying his goodbyes, Barry agrees to sacrifice himself. He sees this as his penance, and his chance at redemption for having created Flashpoint. A Speed Force manifestation of his mother appears and beckons him inside, telling the others that, “His race is over.”
The storm stops as soon as Barry vanishes through the portal.
I picked a lot of nits about this finale above, and the show’s sloppy writing and contradictory story logic continue to irritate me. However, the initial Iris fake-out twist is clever, the emotional beats in the episode work pretty well, and it’s generally a satisfying conclusion to a very uneven season.
I don’t buy the cliffhanger for a moment, though. The sudden threat of the Speed Force prison seems completely contrived and arbitrary – as does Barry’s almost immediate resignation to his fate. It doesn’t occur to him at all that maybe the team can find some other solution to stabilize the prison. They’ve still got evil meta-humans locked up in the Pipeline and in Iron Heights, right? Toss one of them in there! Problem solved.
The show has been renewed for a fourth season, and you can’t have ‘The Flash’ without The Flash. Yes, Wally will take over as The Flash for a while, but it’s a 100% certainty that Barry will find a way out of the prison, sooner rather than later. Why bother pretending otherwise?